Month: January 2014

A Word a Week Photo Challenge: Undulate (wavy/ripple)

Undulate (wavy/ripple) makes me think of

1.      The pahoehoe lava that dries in long rippling waves at Kilauea (Hawaii Volcanoes National Park)

2.      The long, smooth ripples on the lake, caused by the wake of passing boats, becoming gentler as time passes and they reach the shore

These ripples are caused by a boat that has already passed, as well as the wind which causes small areas of counter-currents.
These ripples are caused by a boat that has already passed, as well as the wind which causes small areas of counter-currents.

3.      The lap-lapping sound of waves on the shore of the lake, whether caused by boats or wind – it is a soothing sound

4.      Sunlight dancing on the tiny ripples of a lake in late afternoon

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5.      The wavy lines on a piece of wood, made by a tree, each section unique – found in rustic built cabins where the smell of the wood still permeates the air

6.      Dreams: an image that comes closer and closer, then begins to fade away, each image like a long wave.

7.      Music based on dreams, a sound beginning soft, almost unperceivable, grows louder and louder, then fades away – like the sound of a train that approaches, passes, and fades away, the sound growing fainter and fainter

8.      Tall grasses blown by a gentle breeze; waving back and forth, or causing a ripple to travel over a prairie field

9.      Meditating: colors or abstract images that undulate across the consciousness that I see behind my closed eyelids

10.  A smooth dance – the dancer’s body undulating as it moves, the ripple of a flowing skirt or ribbons attached to the dancer’s costume

Traditional Peruvian dance, at a dinner show in Lima
Traditional Peruvian dance, at a dinner show in Lima

11.  The ripple of a layer clouds brightly colored by a sunrise

?????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????12. Intertwined snakes

These snakes in contrasting colors are the same species; the white one is a rare coloring, but it is not an albino.
These snakes in contrasting colors are the same species; the white one is a rare coloring, but it is not an albino.

I wish I had pictures of all of them, but although I have seen or heard each of them, I have no photographic record – they are imprints on my mind. Those that I have taken pictures of appear in this post.

Matthew 4: 12-23 – commentary

I was inspired by this reading, which I was able to examine closely and take notes about, since I was the scripture reader today.

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Matthew 4 is about the beginning of Jesus’ ministry. Here’s the passage in its entirety:

Matthew 4:12-23

12Now when Jesus heard that John had been arrested, he withdrew to Galilee. 13He left Nazareth and made his home in Capernaum by the sea, in the territory of Zebulun and Naphtali, 14so that what had been spoken through the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled: 15“Land of Zebulun, land of Naphtali, on the road by the sea, across the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles— 16the people who sat in darkness have seen a great light, and for those who sat in the region and shadow of death light has dawned.” 17From that time Jesus began to proclaim, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.” It seems he did this on purpose, so that it would fit the Old Testament prophecy. A smart way to start!

18As he walked by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers (how long was he walking – what is the time frame – before he came across them?), Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea—for they were fishermen. 19And he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fish for people.” 20Immediately they left their nets and followed him. 21As he went from there, he saw two other brothers, James son of Zebedee and his brother John, in the boat with their father Zebedee, mending their nets, and he called them. 22Immediately they left the boat and their father, and followed him.

23Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and curing every disease and every sickness among the people.

How are we to read and interpret this? I would see it as an allegory – fishing is an allegory for “catching” or “fishing for” people who are oppressed or in need. I would also interpret this as taking place over a period of at least several months. Why would they leave their fishing boats “immediately” and go with him? What else did he say to them first? Had they heard about him already? Also, I think the author, Matthew, used the word “immediately” as exaggeration – to stress Jesus’ importance and the recognition that he was someone special. It could be that Jesus came across these two sets of brothers and spent several days talking to them first. It disturbed me that they would leave their families just like that, to follow this guy if they didn’t know him well. (There have been too many so-called “prophets” in recent times who insisted that people who wanted to join their religious movement needed to isolate themselves, even cut off ties, from their families and friends. These “prophets” preyed upon people who were looking for meaning in life.)

Rev. Co gave us some historical background:

The Roman government created an economy which benefited themselves. They imposed taxes on everything – we complain about taxes, but back then it was much worse. Fishermen had to pay taxes on their equipment; if they owned their boat, they paid taxes on it and if they rented it, they had to pay usage tax. Then they had to pay for a fishing permit. Afterward, when they brought in their haul, even if their net was full of fish they didn’t end up with much: there was an official on Mathew4 (vb)shore who counted every single fish caught and the fishermen had to pay a tax for each fish! And on top of that, all citizens were expected to pay a sort of tribute tax to honor their rulers’ authority.

Tax collectors could humiliate you and beat you up in the street with immunity if you tried to evade paying taxes. No wonder they were so reviled!

By the time the fisherman was on his way home after a day of hard work, he didn’t have much to show for it income-wise. In fact, he would end up with less money than the minimum wage of those days for the same amount of work. There was no prestige to being a fisherman – it was a very lowly job.

Perhaps this is why Jesus chose his first disciples among this class of people. There wouldn’t have been much incentive to stay in that profession, especially if Jesus had already attained some notoriety so they’d already heard of him and his message, knew he was legit. If Jesus was already known, Zebedee may have encouraged his sons to go with him. Here was hope, the opportunity to make a better life, to be part of a movement.

One of the hymns we sang today fit perfectly in with this Scripture: Lord, You Have Come to the Lakeshore, a song translated from Spanish, “Tú has venido a la orilla”. I sang it very softly in Spanish. Here are the words:

Tú has venido a la orilla,
no has buscado ni a sabios ni a ricos,
tan sólo quieres que yo te siga.

Señor, me has mirado a los ojos,
y sonriendo has dicho mi nombre;
en la arena he dejado mi barca,
junto a ti buscaré otro mar.

Tú sabes bien lo que tengo:
en mi barca no hay oro ni espadas,
tan sólo redes y mi trabajo.

Señor… (etc.)

Tú necesitas mis manos,
mi cansancio que a otros descanse,
amor que quiera seguir amando.

Señor… (etc.)

Tú, pescador de otros mares,
ansia eterna de almas que esperan,
amigo bueno, que así me llamas.

Señor… (etc.)

I like the words to this song because I feel they express the love inspired by Jesus’ demeanor toward them: “Lord, you have looked into my eyes, and smiling, you said my name; I have left my boat in the sand, together with you I will seek other seas.” It was easy to follow a man like this, who treated them with kindness and respect.

It goes on to say, “You know what I have – in my boat is neither gold nor sword; only nets and my work. …You need my hands, my fatigue so that others may rest, love that wants to continue to love.” This was their mission with Jesus.ImageImage

Weekly Photo Challenge: Juxtaposition

Juxtaposition: Defined by dictionaryBoss:  an act or instance of placing close together or side by side, especially for comparison or contrast.

I have a file that I call “unusual pics” because of unexpected or unusual combinations of things.  I especially like the following:

IMAG1389My son’s ashtray was sitting outside on the deck where he goes to smoke. The other day after a snowfall, I noticed cigarette butts sticking out of a little pile of snow that had fallen on his ashtray!

mop & maple seedsIn another season, also on our deck, a mop had been left out after cleaning the deck. It was the season when maple trees drop their seeds, so our deck was soon covered with maple seeds which mingled with the strands of the mop.

??????????????????????????????????????This little religious shrine was set up in a corner of a nail salon. Above the religious articles is a display case full of nail polish colors.

???????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????I found this scene, in Dayton, Ohio, curious: A half-buried fire hydrant surrounded by a field of clover!

But nowhere is juxtaposition more deliberate and strange than at The Orange Show – an art-performance exhibit in Houston, Texas.  Jim McKissick, the builder/artist was retired and decided to pay homage to his favorite fruit, the orange. He collected a lot of miscellaneous things, and put them together in unusual ways. Here are some examples:

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?????????????????????????????????????????????????????A female Santa with rosy red lips!

????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????This is the “main stage” outside. We were told performances are still held here, although I don’t know what kind – perhaps circus-type shows for children.

The Orange Show is one of several interactive art installations throughout Houston. Most famous of these is the annual car parade held in May, but we were  able to visit the Beer Can House and Smither Park (a work in progress). More on these works of art in a future post!

 

One Trip EVERY Month Challenge: January

One trip EVERY monthWe took a trip this month to Burlington, WI and environs, a little over an hour’s drive from Chicago. Our reason for going was to attend a niece’s wedding, a niece who has always been very dear to me.

Fortunately the weather cooperated – in the low 30s, although the wind chill made it seem colder.

The bride and groom had planned to have a church wedding, but that fell through because the church overbooked for the date of Jan. 11. They were planning to have the reception at the Veterans Terrace, so they changed the ceremony to be held there also, but in a much smaller room! I know it pained my niece, Julia, to have to inform everyone by email that due to the change to a smaller space, only immediate family, bridal party’s family and the couple’s aunts and uncles would be able to attend the ceremony. Julia has many cousins that she was sure would be disappointed, but it couldn’t be helped.

Our son was disappointed at first, but it meant that he and his girlfriend had more time to drive there, check into their hotel room and get ready.

Julia walks down the aisle on the arm of her father.
Julia walks down the aisle on the arm of her father.

The ceremony was nice, very moving to me because Julia and I share a  lot of wonderful, as well as sad, memories. Happy memories of playing with her younger cousin, Jayme (my son), when we all lived in Milwaukee. Happy memories of annual “Greek” parties at their house, to coincide with the annual Greek Festival on the Greek Orthodox Church grounds, which could be reached merely by crossing a few backyards from their house. Those who stayed at the party, which centered on the veranda of my sister’s house, engaged in stimulating conversation with a variety of their friends, good wine, and Greek-themed h’ors d’eouvres. … Sad memories of the death of Julia’s mother – my sister – suddenly and unexpectedly in June of 2006, only a week before her son’s w

Tom plays Amazing Grace on the sax.
Tom plays Amazing Grace on the sax.

edding. Bittersweet memories of my sister’s friends rallying to the support of Julia, her brother Tom, and their widowed father, all of whom encouraged Tom and his fiancee to go ahead with the wedding – it was what his mom would have wanted. Then Tom’s wedding – full of emotional and tearful speeches and toasts, yet happy and beautiful at the same time. It was held outside on a beautiful July day and the bride looked beautiful – her hair and the bridesmaids’ had been done by a creative friend of my sister’s.


And now it was Julia’s wedding day. I don’t usually cry at weddings, but I couldn’t help crying at this one. And when Julia and I embraced later, we both had tears in our eyes, encompassing our entire history of love, joy and sadness together.IMAG1352

All of my sister’s friends greeted me and we felt a sort of kinship as well as some of Julia’s close friends who have known her for many years. I thanked them for their support of dear Julia through the years.

At the reception, all of our family as well as the groom’?????????????s family, and their friends, came together for a nice evening of eating, dancing and celebrating. There was a photo booth set up off to one side – the kind where you sit inside and it snaps a series of 4 or 5 pictures, which are instantly available when you leave the booth. This one was operated by a friend, and there was a table of “props” – silly hats, wigs, and headbands – for people to put on for the photos if they wanted to. One copy of the strip of photos was then put into a photo album which doubled as a guest book, and the people in the photo were encouraged to write a message for the newlywed couple.

My four-year-old grand niece, Grace, gregarious as she can be once she warms up to the situation, was soon on the dance floor, playing and dancing with Isabel, her 3rd cousin of the same age, and other children of similar size tha???????????????????????????????????????????????????t Grace and Isabel invited into their circle. One of these was another niece’s son, Ben, who is just about the same age younger than Grace as my son was in relation to Julia. Grace and Ben always look forward to seeing each other and play so well together – it reminds me so much of Julia and Jayme when they were that age. So much so that often I will call Grace “Julia” by mistake!

Two sisters, first cousins of mine, were there too. One of these is the grandmother of Isabel and her older siblings. The other spends half the year in Canada, where she and her husband have a Christmas tree growing business, and the other half in Arizona, so I rarely see her. What a treat to have so many loved ones together!

Later when we asked Jayme’s girlfriend what she thought of our family, her response was beautiful and astute: “It was amazing – you have such a big family and yet they all support each other.” How true!

The next morning there was a catered breakfast by my brother-in-law (Julia’s father) and his partner, which caused a swell of family members and friends to crowd into the small breakfast room of the Baymont Hotel! We finally managed to say our good-byes as the gathering was breaking up and be on our way by 11:00 am.

My husband’s family decades ago owned a small place on a nearby creek, which they called simply “The Creek”, a place they’d go on vacation. We drove around the countryside south of Burlington, looking for the exact spot so he could show me and his daughter where it was. We’ve done this before, but neither time have we found exactly where it was! Although the house has long since been torn down, my husband remembers it with nostalgia, and recognizes with fondness many nearby “landmarks” in what remain of the small towns in the area.

We wound our way back toward the highway via a circuitous route, finally arriving at the place we wanted to stop on the way home – Mars Cheese Castle! My stepdaughter wanted to take a picture from the front, showing the drawbridge!

IMAG1365There is a giant mouse at the entrance, who wears a “fan mitt” for the  Green Bay Packers. I cheered, my Illinois-born husband and stepdaughter booed!

IMAG1366I’ve seen this place many times as I’ve traveled to and from Milwaukee and Chicago, but I had never been inside. I was amazed at how big it is! Every kind of cheese imaginable is sold there as well as a variety of other food products and souvenirs, including a favorite of Packer fans – cheesehead hats! We bought our favorites – cheese curds and mini IMAG1367sausages (except these were bison and venison, much leaner than beef – no guilt!), and blocks of other cheeses to stock in our basement refrigerator until we can get back to our favorite cheese place in central Wisconsin next summer. I don’t like to buy cheese in Illinois – too expensive!

Many of you reading this may not know about cheesehead hats or their history. It’s a football rivalry thing: Chicago Bears fans began calling Green Bay Packer fans “cheeseheads”, meant as a disparaging term. However, the best way to deal with a so-called insulting name is to turn it around and “own” it, which is exactly what Packer fans did! They adopted this as a nickname to be proud of and soon a new industry was born: the manufacture of rubber-latex Swiss cheese wedges, which have the bottom carved out to fit on one’s head! They started making them also in children’s sizes and eventually even for dogs and Beanie Babies!  Turn on an American football game in which the Packers are playing and you will see many fans wearing them. I used to have one, and wore it to costume parties or Super Bowl parties, but it got “moldy” so I had to throw it away.

After we got home, a few hours later Jayme arrived with his girlfriend. Guess where they had stopped on the way home? Mars Cheese Castle!

My January trip was an eventful and fun weekend to remember!

Weekly Photo Challenge: Beginning

Beginning: a New Year, a sunrise, a newborn’s first day of life, a new pet, the first day of a trip. All of these come to mind immediately when I think of “beginning.”

I’ve taken many pictures of sunsets, but few of sunrises. I got lucky on Dec. 18, 2013: I was on my way to work on one of the shortest days of the year, so the sun was rising during my drive. The rippling pattern of the clouds that morning spread some beautiful colors across the sky, and made for a gorgeous beginning of the day. I looked for a place to stop so I could take a picture, and found one just north of a local park, at the entrance to a road leading into an industrial complex.

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Another beginning I’ve had recently is the adoption of a cat, after 20 years of being petless! We found this beautiful tortoiseshell at a CARE shelter, named Hazel; her story was compelling: she’d been found as a pregnant “teenager” and put into a foster home that usually fosters kittens. There she gave birth to 6 kittens (all “torties” like their mother) and she was a devoted mother. One of the kittens was kind of a “runt” who had trouble learning to walk. Hazel nudged her and leaned against her to help her take her first steps. Two months later, mom and kittens were taken to the shelter, and subsequently all her kittens were adopted. But mom Hazel stayed at the shelter waiting for a “forever” home for more than a year and a half before we arrived just before Christmas.

We fell in love with Hazel and took her home the day after Christmas. This picture is one of the first that I took of her at home. We bought a combination toy/scratching area which she took to right away: she loves batting the ball that goes round and round in the outer groove.

?????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????Another one of my first pictures of her is this one, lying next to the dining room table. Next to her paw is a feather from a carrot-shaped catnip filled toy that she had already begun to rip to shreds!

????????????????????Hazel was very scared the first few days with us, since she’d been at a shelter so long and suddenly had a two-story house to explore! Now she owns the house – and us!!